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First Jewish Kindergarten Opens in Lodz

A Jerusalem-based group announced the opening of the first Jewish kindergarten in decades in the Polish city of Lodz.

Shavei Israel, which tries to bring people with Jewish roots back into the Jewish fold, said Monday that the kindergarten would open in partnership with the city’s Jewish community of a few hundred members. The first class of 10 children will start in September.

“There is a growing Jewish community in Lodz, as well as many Poles with Jewish roots who are becoming more and more interested in reconnecting with their heritage,” said Michael Freund, a New York native who founded Shavei Israel in 2002 after immigrating to Israel.

The city in central Poland, about 80 miles from Warsaw, was historically home to one of the country’s most vibrant Jewish communities – and one of the largest ghettos during the Holocaust. But Jewish life all but disappeared from Lodz in 1944, Freund said.

Nearly all of the ghetto’s 164,000 residents were murdered in the Holocaust, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, along with 90 percent of Poland’s pre-Holocaust Jewish population of 3 million.

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